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Last Three Albums: Psychedelic Sunday with Tame Impala, Flaming Lips, and Of Montreal
It's been a while since I did one of these so whether anyone even cares or not, here's another three reviews which all happen to be psychedelic in some fashion so that's always fun xD. For those of you who haven't read any of these before, Last Three Albums is where I write reviews on three albums that I listened to recently, usually over the past week. It was meant to be a weekly thing but... not very good at these sorts of things ^_^;.
But oh well, here's three reviews of three trippy (sorta... ish... kinda..) albums.
Lonerism (2012) by Tame Impala
Genre: Psychedelic Pop/Rock
Receiving a lot of praise and plugging from the press, Lonerism is no stranger to "Top Albums of 2012" lists from publications across the board, and Tame Impala themselves have been enjoying ample exposure in the music industry and press for quite some time. However, I'm under the impression that Lonerism is more dividing than it seems.
If you asked anyone who's listened to this album about some of the things that really stand out about Lonerism, chances are they'll tell you one thing: "Tame Impala sounds like the Beatles." or some variation on that phrase; "Tame Impala's like the Beatles, except modern.", "Tame Impala's singer sounds like John Lennon (insert "Paul McCartney" when appropriate).", "It's like if John Lennon came back from the dead, just to form the Beatles again, but not with the other Beatles because Paul and Ringo are like old now, and George Harrison would totally have to come back from the dead too so that's virtually out of the question, and—" You get the picture.
And what do I think of all this? It's all true.
It's 100% correct. Right on the money. Allow me to be so bold as to say that it is fact (except for maybe that last one, forget that one). I don't really like the comparison because it devalues Tame Impala's songwriting, which is great in their own right. So where am I going with this? Well, just as black and white as it is for me to think that Tame Impala sounds like the Beatles, you either find that to be a good thing or a bad thing. For the people who associate themselves with the former, Beatles fans and people who dig that sort of psychedelic sound from the 60's and such would eat this up like vultures (happy, smiling vultures, of course). For the latter, people who tire of music drawing from that era or people who simply want to hear something different from what's been done before will cry foul to the similar elements of instrumentation and perhaps even songwriting... or they can just be those people who simply don't like the Beatles.
You may ask, "So what do you think?"... or you won't, in which case you should do so right now because it brings me to my point. For me, it's very clear Lonerism is drawing from the psychedelic stylings of the 60's, and yes, the singer sounds like John Lennon. But it feels very fresh with just as much accessibility as the Beatles did, and along with elements that were inspired by the Beatles are bits and pieces inspired by other psych groups such as the Flaming Lips, albeit not very pronounced. The songwriting is sound and the melodies are nice and pleasing. The musicianship is great and the arrangements are interesting and engaging for me to listen to the entire album and then want to listen to it again. And for me, that's usually the sign of a good album.
Highlights: Endors Toi, Apocalypse Dreams, Feels Like We Only Go Backwards, Keep On Lying, Elephant, Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control.
Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (2007) by Of Montreal
Genre: Neo-Psychedelia, Indie Pop
Welp, well isn't that a mouthful of a title? This would be my first Of Montreal album I've listened to, and I have to say they're... well they're definitely... what I mean to say is they're... They're... different, different from what I've expected from an indie pop sort of band. I'm not saying they're treading new ground or pioneering the next big step in music or anything substantial like that. Of Montreal just has a very interesting sound that admittedly, I've never really listened to before. Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? is very bombastic, quirky, and in-your-face with glammy harmonizing a capella voices singing not a capella, because they're accompanied by synthy riffs and droning noises and lush arrangements. Everything sounds pretty processed in a way but not enough to bug me. Musically, it feels very active and almost dancy. All the songs are pretty upbeat and despite this, the album does drag from the middle onward. Mostly this would stem from the fact that the Of Montreal decided they'd throw in a twelve minute song halfway through the album. Note that I'm not exactly calling "The Past is a Grotesque Animal" a bad song, it's just a bit superfluous. Overall, the album itself becomes superfluous after that song but the songwriting is very strange and unique with weird lyrics coming and going such as "Somehow you've red-rovered / The Gestapo circling my heart." or "We've got to keep our little click / clicking at 130 B.P.M., it's not too slow."
In general, Of Montreal's giving off this sort of witty, edgy vibe that I'm not sure if I really enjoy or not, but the songwriting is certainly interesting enough. Hissing Fauna might be one of those rare cases where I'm actually not reading into it enough and perhaps I need to listen to it a lot more to give me a real idea of whether or not I like it, but so far it feels like a crazy fun mess of an album that isn't engaging enough to keep me paying attention to it after twenty minutes.
Highlights: Suffer For Fashion, Cato as a Pun, Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse.
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002) by The Flaming Lips
Genre: Psychedelic Pop/Rock, Neo-Psychedelia
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots probably epitomized the band's liking to writing silly and quirky music while still being incredibly relatable and accessible to their audiences. Probably one of the most accessible albums in their discography, the Flaming Lips managed to make an album that is both compulsively listenable while solidifying their sound at the time and putting forth lyrical social commentary on pacifism and the nature of love and hate and mortality and robots feeling emotions and all that jazz.
This all sounds very lovely and all, doesn't it? Well, the music itself is also incredibly lovely and beautifully arranged, the soundscapes of dreamy synths blending with the aggressive pounding drumming from Steven Drozd. The musicianship here is just stellar, and Wayne Coyne's simple yet genuine vocalization contributes to the overall silly yet rather melancholy atmosphere. The lyrics themselves sound very genuine and straightforward, yet they're gripping and pleasant to listen to and don't sound like they're trying too hard to impress or express social undertones. And whaddaya know, they managed to impress and express social undertones that have so much meaning.
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is hands down one of the Lips' best, and remains greatly consistent throughout the entire album, as every single song is noteworthy and brilliantly written. Even one of the less interesting songs, "Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Planitia)" (The Flaming Lips always had a thing for incredibly long names...) won a Grammy, but I mean, who even pays attention to those guys over at the Academy, am I right?
Highlights: Fight Test, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt.1, In The Morning Of The Magicians, Ego Tripping At the Gates of Hell, Are You A Hypnotist??, Do You Realize??